Scammers, The Political Class And The Future of Nigeria’s Image, by Morak Babajide-Alabi
Blog, Newspaper Column, Nigeria

Scammers, The Political Class And The Future of Nigeria’s Image

By Morak Babajide-Alabi

There are, not few, things happening within the Nigerian political institution that one cannot but wonder aloud what is wrong with us as a nation. We often ask “who cursed Nigeria?” not for want of something to say but our frustration at things going on in the country. Maybe we should be asking “what causes Nigeria’s lack of progress?”

The situation is hopeless. The children who we see as the future leaders of tomorrow are beginning to question the reality. The disillusionment is obvious as the future looks infinitely bleak for them. They have heard many times over that tomorrow is for them, but they cannot relate the reality of today, which they are living without bare essentials, to a decent future. They try to see beyond today, with all the disappointments and lacks, but there is nothing cheery in the horizon. The “every man for himself” of the present crop of leaders is not in any way encouraging for them. In the current circumstances, they wonder if there would be anything left of the motherland by the time the future arrives. Where’s the hope of an enduring building, they ask, when there is no stable foundation in place?

We cannot condemn anyone disappointed with the stagnated state of Nigeria. There is no respect for the country outside the borders either. The battle for her soul between the internet scammers and the political class has dented the image the founding fathers worked so hard to establish. These two classes of Nigerians are working assiduously to rub mud on the faces of all Nigerians. By their activities, all citizens are tarred with the same brush. Needless to say that it is a dirty brush.

While the internet scammers are making money off old age pensioners (OAPs), companies and lately governments in the Western world, the politicians are stealing from the common wealth. These two groups are ruthless and wicked, as they do not mind who they hurt in the process of getting rich by all means. The scammers would go to any length to fleece people of the legitimate rewards of their sweat. Most of these people are smart and intelligent, but above all, they are Nigerians. They work round the clock, detailing plans and strategies to hoodwink their victims, and also tarnish the image of the country of birth.

On the other hand, the politicians are not a smart set of people, at least not in Nigeria. Being intelligent or wise is not a criterion for “selection” to political posts. The key to a political career in Nigeria is money, loads of it. If you lack this, you must have a godfather willing to pull your hands up. No one cares how the politicians make money, as poverty has blinded the masses to accept the pittances passed to them. They would line up behind these politicians to ensure they get at least one square meal in a day. Would you blame them? The politicians invest money to get into the government, so they could “corner” the people’s funds. The online scammers rarely spend a penny to get money out of their victims. They are hardcore and brutal.

It is how far the differences go. But we have separate indices to measure the activities of these two groups. When online scammers make “hits,” we say they are involved in “illegal activities.” Fair enough. But when politicians steal from government coffers, accept kickbacks, award contracts to their cronies, the law enforcement agencies look the other way. Disappointingly, the masses praise them and hail them as messiahs to gain access to crumbs. It is an unusual arrangement. With the brazen bravery of the politicians stealing the masses dry, you would expect the masses to stone them when seen in public. No, we prefer to hail them.

A British friend asked me why not many notable Nigerian politicians have condemned the arrests of some high profile online scammers. I expressed as a matter of fact: “Because they have no moral basis, as they are in the same category. Have you ever heard a thief condemn another thief? No, as it is not an acceptable ethic of the profession.” My friend, like many other foreigners, is aware of the email scams and the high level of corruption in the Nigerian political system. To the world, Nigerian online scammers and politicians work hand in hand. Fair enough, some scammers had legitimised their gains by blending with the political class. A few had governed states while some had become legislators to make laws for the honourable Nigerians. Imagine how dented the image of the country is by the activities of the scammers and the political class.

The Nigerians in the diaspora bear the brunt of the dented image. They had to live with the fallout of criminal behaviours of some of their compatriots. They endure the jokes of their foreign colleagues who humour themselves with the content of the Nigerian prince’s emails. These are Nigerians who stutter in their bids to explain why essential infrastructures are lacking several years after independence from the colonial masters. They are Nigerians no one believes in because they see them in the mould of these online scammers and politicians.

Nigerians in the diaspora are in “double jeopardy.” Firstly, they are discriminated against for the colour of their skins and also for being a Nigerian. They are the carriers of the image of corruption as exemplified by the online scammers and politicians. How can they breathe when their hosts tell them “hush” stories of “puppies” who scam foreigners and politicians who do nothing but embezzle people’s money? It is hard.

The online scammers display their wealth on social media, while the politicians oppress their constituents with the massive buildings and arrays of cars parked in them. The scammers may be intelligent, but they lack common sense. Without any legitimate means of livelihood, they allow the world into their flashy and opulence lifestyles. They are foolish. It is indeed true that there is no honour among thieves.

The politicians seem to enjoy a bit of what the scammers lack. They prefer to oppress the people who voted for them and whose money they spend lavishly. These guys rub their wealth on the faces of the local people. They display their transformed lives to the dismay of the ones that voted them in. The politicians are arrogant, and they do not care if their houses are the only ones with electricity or pipe-borne water. Who cares? The locals “admire” the transformation of the politicians. They pray to their gods to transform their lives just as it did for Mr XYZ who, until he was elected a member of the state House of Assembly a year ago, was a jobless tenant who delighted in travelling on the back of “Okadas.” Mr XYZ has erected a mansion and also bought a few latest car models.

Let us not deceive ourselves that it is only online scammers that are undermining the integrity of millions of honest Nigerians. When politicians sidestep their campaign promises and instead award contracts only to contractors willing to pay upfront kickbacks, Nigeria’s image will continue to swim in murky waters. As long as development is not a point of agenda of the political class, Nigeria will purely be a giant on paper. Nigeria’s image will forever be dented as long as members of the political class run abroad for medical treatment, send their children to universities abroad and stash their wealth in foreign accounts as ordinary citizens lament their daily living. No one will take the country seriously.

 

As written for the Diaspora Matters column, Sunday Vanguard, July 5, 2020

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ABOUT MORAK

I am an experienced Social Media practitioner with a strong passion for connecting with customers of brands. As part of a team, I presently work on the social media account of a leading European auto company. On this job, I have brought my vast experiences in journalism, marketing, search engine optimisation and branding to play.

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